The Art Of Healing

It may seem like the world is a scary place, and there are a lot of things to be afraid of. Luckily, there are some simple ways to cope with some of these horrible things, and for the most part all you need to get started is pencil and a sheet of paper. Can drawing, writing or painting be used to help the with the psychological/physical healing processes or is it just a placebo? Although it appears creating art is just a hobby for most, it is a helpful recovery tool for those going through physical or emotional pain, as it gives them an outlet to express and work through their current situation.

Some people having trouble connecting to others, be it that they are introverts, lack social skills or just don’t have the time. This can cause feelings of loneliness, which can lead to anxiety or depression over time. Samuel Scharff is a med school student who started a webcomic/blog to deal with the loneliness of med school and not being able to have meaningful conversations with the other students about what they were learning, due to conflicting schedules. Through a couple panels on a sheet of paper, a little text and some basic illustrations he was able to convey his feelings of frustration and insecurity. By uploading them to his website, he was able to make connections, by finding an audience among his peers who had similar feelings (Scharff, 2015, p.391).

Another way art can help heal is in the form of poetry. Poetry is designed to be expressive, and that makes it the perfect tool for expressing grief when people are unable to explain how they feel in any other way. In dealing with the grief she felt after her sister was murdered, Christina Bracegirdle began writing poetry to express her emotions.  She would listen to her anguish and write it out into poems regardless as to whether or not she felt they were written well (Bracegirdle, 2011, p.82). The process of writing poetry helped her through her recovery, as writing about her feelings in hindsight, allowed her to process her experiences and find meaning she had not seen before (Bracegirdle, 2011, p.87).

Blogging has been around for roughly twenty years. Like journaling, blogs can be used to note significant moments in the author/blogger’s life, mundane activities like how they spent an hour waiting for the bus, or just a log of everything that they have done that day. Blogs can also be used to look back at the blogger’s life, so you can reflect on how they’ve grown since they began posting.  Blogging can also be used as a way of writing to heal, in hopes of sharing their story, coping with traumatic events, or to keep from repressing emotional memories (Ramanathan, 2015, p.267). Using a blog to heal is interesting, as it tends to be much more public than writing in a journal, but being that it’s public and allowing people to share their story, this could allow others going through similar trauma a chance to realize they’re not alone, like a form of group therapy. Bloggers being able to share their story anonymously helps with the healing process (Ramanathan, 2015, p.268), as it allows them to write freely without worrying about how sharing their story could impact their personal or professional lives.

Art can be used to help make sense of emotions, especially in children who might find themselves in situations where they are not fully clear on what they are going through. Illustrating can be used to help children process their feelings after being forced to relocate to a new culture/community due to violence in their homeland. In his group sessions, to cope with what he lived through before leaving Sudan, a child kept drawing images of war and destruction. This repetition of drawing these images, over time, would help him to let go of his grief (St. Thomas & Johnson, 2007, p.124 – p.127). Art also allows children who are ill or injured, providing them an outlet to cope with the physical/psychological trauma they went through (Threlkeld, 2003, p.497). This allows these children to build up some confidence in themselves that they would not have had, if not for the opportunity to create something from a blank canvas, and use it confront their trauma.

Art is just a hobby, maybe a career for those lucky enough to make a living from it. It is also a therapeutic tool that is proven to help people work though their trauma and rebuild their lost confidence by rediscovering themselves through writing, drawing or painting. Is there a chance it could be a pseudoscience that gives the placebo effect of healing? Possibly, but there are no peer reviewed articles or ebooks to back up that claim. The world can be a ugly place sometimes, but it’s comforting to know that by making a comic, drawing some pictures, or writing some poetry, all that negativity can be channeled into something beautiful that can help people work though their trauma, and help others find a sense of understanding by viewing it.

Works Cited:

St. Thomas, Bruce, and Paul Johnson. Empowering Children through Art and Expression : Culturally Sensitive Ways of Healing Trauma and Grief. Jessica Kingsley, 2007. INSERT-MISSING-DATABASE-NAME, INSERT-MISSING-URL. Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.

Scharff S. “Sketchbooks & Sutures: A Blog About Learning to Heal.” The Journal of Medical Humanities, vol. 36, no. 4, 2015, pp. 391–4., doi:10.1007/s10912-015-9351-7.

Bracegirdle, Christina. “Writing Poetry: Recovery and Growth Following Trauma.” Journal of Poetry Therapy, vol. 24, no. 2, 2011, pp. 79–91., doi:10.1080/08893675.2011.573285.

Ramanathan V. “‘The Words Are Stuck Inside Me; I Write to Heal’: Memory, Recall, and Repetition Inptsd Blogs.” Communication & Medicine, vol. 12, no. 2-3, 2015, pp. 257–71.

Threlkeld M. “Art and Healing.” Journal of the National Medical Association, vol. 95, no. 6, 2003, pp. 496–8.